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Heavy Cannabis Use Among UK Teenagers: An Exploration

NCJ Number
Drug and Alcohol Dependence Volume: 65 Issue: 3 Dated: February 1, 2002 Pages: 235-242
Patrick Miller; Martin Plant
Date Published
8 pages
This study examined possible differences among heavy cannabis (marijuana) users and patterns of illicit drug use found within the groups.
A sample of 2,641 United Kingdom students aged 15- to 16-years-old were used as part of the 30 country European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD). The 201 students who reported using cannabis 40 times or more were examined using cluster analysis, and compared to other students. It was expected that there might be three groups, whose immediate motivations would be broadly described as rebellion against authority, having a good time, and self-medication for stress. This was not quite fully realized. Although there were “antisocial” and “unhappy” clusters, there was no evidence that the remaining “ordinary group” was just out to have a good time. This was probably because there were few variables contained within the study that might measure this motivation. It was apparent that heavy cannabis users as a whole were more likely to go out in the evenings than light users to discos or parties. This applied equally to all three clusters within the heavy user group suggesting that part of the motivation of students in all three was to socialize and to have fun. The antisocial cluster, with 25 percent of the total heavy cannabis users, was characterized as aggressive against others, thieving, and destructive of property. The unhappy cluster, 34 percent of the total, was the most extreme on several variables. They had difficult family relationships, lower self-esteem, and less satisfaction with their own health. The ordinary cluster, 41 percent of the total, was distinct mainly in that its members tended to feel that there were no absolute rules in life that they should not break and that the environment was reasonably stable and predictable. The findings suggest that heavy cannabis using adolescents in the United Kingdom are not a homogeneous group and that different descriptions of the process by which they become users are necessary. 3 tables, 32 references


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